Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on Thursday highlighted the important role the media plays in help handling health crisis in the world.
As a "pervasive and persuasive medium," the media is a " valuable and powerful source to harness and to deal with" any crisis, Najib said in an international meeting on health crisis here.
He urged the media to shoulder the task of providing accurate, credible information, especially during a health crisis, such as the bird flu, and to assist in "dismissing half-truth that often lead to misinformation, miscommunication and confusion."
Najib made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the International Conference on Management of Information Pertaining to Health Crisis, which is under the Information for All Program, a UNESCO intergovernmental program (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
The deputy prime minister said his country welcomes the move to establish a guide, or a list of best practices for media practitioners and other communicators to use in the event of a health crisis.
"Such a guide would specify the role of the mass media and communicators in bridging the link between the authorities tasked with stamping out the disease and the general public," said Najib.
For example, he suggested, authorities could require local telecommunication operators to send short message service (SMS) alert and update to their subscribers in case of a disease outbreak.
Representatives from some 20 countries and regions, comprising the media, information and health officials as well as academicians, are expected to participate in the two-day conference.
Its main object is to provide a platform for participants to share experience and knowledge on handling communication and information relating to health issues at both national and international levels.